How The OC launched these mega stars' careers – from Harry Styles' love Olivia Wilde to Amber Heard & Chris Pratt

FOR many, watching Ryan, Marissa, Seth and Summer battle endless scandals on The OC was a staple part of their teenage years through the early 2000s.

But the popular TV series also launched the careers of some major Hollywood stars – including Amber Heard, Chris Pratt, Shailene Woodley and even Harry Styles' new girlfriend Olivia Wilde.


Wilde, 36, played bisexual Alex Kelly – who dated both Seth and Marissa in a dramatic love triangle – from 2004.

The actress went on to enjoy a huge career after leaving Orange County, with a top role in medical drama House and endless starring movie roles.

She is now said to have begun dating ex-1D star Harry, 26, after meeting on the set of Don't Worry Darling, and they appeared to confirm their relationship when they attended a pal’s wedding hand-in-hand this weekend.

Wilde joins a string of A-listers in The OC's history books. So, as the show is set to land on All 4 in its entirety from January 22, can you remember these top actors and actresses' appearances?


Shailene Woodley (young Kaitlyn)

Marissa Cooper's younger sister Kaitlyn only made a few appearances in the first series, as a fairly spoiled young girl obsessed with her pony.

But many may not be aware the youngster was played by top actress Shailene Woodley, 29, when she was just 11 years old.

Her character was eventually sent off to boarding school, before she returned later in the show played by a different actress.



Woodley did re-audition for the part, but admitted her "mouse-child" looks prevented her from getting it.

She told Bustle: "I didn't go through puberty until late… I was the 15-year-old who had no boobs… I looked like an 8-year-old."

It didn't hinder the actress' epic rise to fame in the slightest though, as she went on to enjoy starring roles in the Divergent series, Big Little Lies, The Fault in Our Stars and more.

Chris Pratt (Che)

Chris Pratt, 41, is one of the most recognisable heartthrobs in Hollywood now, but it all began with a very different part – as Che, the hippy friend of Summer.



He and Summer, played by Rachel Bilson, grew close when they attended Brown University together and he introduced her to activism.

It all ended in tears, however, when he blamed her for some of his misdeeds and she was suspended. He later appeared in Newport to beg for her forgiveness.

Since his stint in season four, Pratt has enjoyed one of the most impressive careers of anyone in the series – starring in blockbusters like Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World and The Magnificent Seven remake, as well as sitcom Parks and Recreation.

Amber Heard (shop girl)

While some stars enjoyed fairly long stints on The OC, Amber Heard, 34, appeared in just one episode – and made quite the impression, despite not even being named in it.

The actress and ex of Johnny Depp played a 'shop girl' in 'The Mallpisode' episode, when the main characters get locked in a mall.


Heard's character wasa rude and cold-hearted staff member, with Seth saying behind her back: "Somebody missed the sensitivity training seminar."

But Heard has since gone on to enjoy much bigger roles in Aquaman, Justice League and more.

Nikki Reed (Sadie)

Sadie Campbell only appeared for a short time as one of Ryan's love interests in The OC, but the actress that played her went on to star in one of the most popular film series in recent years – Twilight.



Nikki Reed's OC character Sadie first appeared on the show while helping her aunt out, following the death of her cousin Johnny.

There, she befriended Ryan, but soon determined they didn't have a future together as he prepared to attend college.

Reed, 32, had starred in Thirteen before The OC, so was recognisable to a few viewers, but achieved huge fame as Edward's sister Rosalie in vampire series Twilight afterwards.

Cam Gigandet (Volchok)

Reed wasn't the only Twilight star to appear on The OC, and Cam Gigandet, who played evil villain James in the vampire films, had an even bigger role in it.



Gigandet, 38, played another villain in The OC – Volchok – who was constantly battling Ryan for Marissa's affections.

It ultimately ended in the tragic car chase that would claim Marissa's life, in one of the most heartbreaking TV scenes of the time.

Gigandet has since enjoyed fame in films such as Never Back Down and Burlesque.

Chris Brown (band geek Will)

Chris Brown was already a rising star in the music world when he made a (very) brief appearance on The OC in 2007, and his fame has only grown in the years since.



Brown, 31, played band geek Will Tutt in season four, who enjoyed a very brief relationship with a more grown-up Kaitlyn.

He told MTV of his role at the time: "I play, like, a band geek – I'm really stepping out of my own character…

"I was kind of a geek in school, grade-wise. But style-wise, I was always popular and cool. But [on the show] I'm geeked out all the way."

The singer had released two albums at the time, and has gone on to achieve major chart success since.

Max Greenfield (young Sandy Cohen)

He's now best known for his role as Schmidt on New Girl, but Max Greenfield, 40, also had a surprising spot on The OC years before – as a young Sandy, complete with those statement eyebrows.


Greenfield appeared in a flashback scene and has described it as "a very confidence-building moment" since.

"It was actually a transitional moment in my career. I hadn't worked in a while," he told The Huffington Post.

"I remember that it was quick and easy. Then the way they had cut it together, and with the music they chose, it ended up being a really nice scene. It was one that my mom loved. […] It was a very big confidence-building moment for me."

Greenfield has also had recurring roles in Veronica Mars and Ugly Betty and starred in CBS comedy series The Neighborhood.

Mischa Barton (Marissa)

Of course, The OC also shot the four main stars to the centre of the limelight, including Marissa actress Mischa Barton, 34.


Barton was already a fairly well-known star when she took on the role, having appeared in Notting Hill, The Sixth Sense and Lawn Dogs in 1997.

However, playing Marissa catapulted her into mainstream fame and she won two Teen Choice Awards for the part. Entertainment Weekly even named her the 'It Girl' of 2003.

While Barton has struggled in the years since with fame, including being hospitalised, she has enjoyed major success and appeared in St Trinian's in 2007 and Assassination of a High School President in 2008.

She also appeared alongside Martin Sheen in Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain (2014) and, after making a triumphant return to the spotlight, MTV series The Hills: New Beginnings.

Rachel Bilson (Summer)

Unlike Barton, Summer actress Rachel Bilson's career only really took off following her time on The OC. She had just appeared in one episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter before the show.



Following her star role, she made her movie debut in The Last Kiss in 2006 and starred in the action film Jumper two years later.

From 2011 to 2015, she played Dr Zoe Hart on The CW series Hart of Dixie.

Bilson, 39, also dated her on-screen boyfriend Adam Brody in real life, but they called it quits in 2006 after three years of dating.

Adam Brody (Seth)

Actor Adam Brody, 41, is also best known for his role as Seth Cohen on The OC, having had minor roles in American Pie 2 and Gilmore Girls before that.


While he was applauded for his portrayal of Seth, his career has gone to a whole new level since, as he's starred in Mr. & Mrs. Smith in 2005, Cop Out in 2010, Scream 4 in 2011, Shazam! in 2019 and many more.

He also went on to marry Gossip Girl star Leighton Meester.

Ben McKenzie (Ryan)

Playing lead character Ryan Atwood was actor Ben McKenzie's first major role, and made him one of the early 2000s' biggest heartthrobs.



Speaking to PeopleTV's Couch Surfing about his time on The OC, he said: "It was a rocket ship… and I think we all kind of hung on for dear life."

He went on to star as Ben Sherman in Southland and James Gordon in the television series Gotham, from 2014 to 2019.

McKenzie, 42, has also appeared in the 2008 film adaptation of Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun, Junebug and 88 Minutes.

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